Dinner parties will be a breeze and a joy to host with these top tips. Get to party planning!
I’ve always enjoyed having people over my place and cooking for them. You might think that that is a little weird, since I already work in the restaurant and bar industry. But there is something very different about working in restaurants versus cooking for people you love at home. Also, I never cook in the restaurants– that is the responsibility of our talented chefs. I very quickly realized that even if you are lucky enough to work in an industry that you are passionate about, it is still very important to practice that passion outside the scope of your work.
So here are a couple of tips I have for you, if you are planning a dinner party at home:
1. Stick to a theme
Make sure your dinner party is cohesive by building it around a theme. It doesn’t mean you can’t go fusion—mixing different cuisines, different decors, or even different tableware can make for an interesting dinner party. Just ensure that everything goes together, from the drinks to the food to your guests.
Your guests will truly feel at home in your home if you add a touch of personalization to your dinner party. Name cards with their nicknames at the dinner table or their quirky qualities as their placeholders will spark conversations throughout the night.
3. Make it interactive.
Sit-down dinners with waiters at hand can make your dinner party too stiff and formal. Also who wants to hire professionals at home? Might as well just go to a restaurant, in my opinion. Let your guests let loose by letting them do it themselves—setting up a mix-your-own-drink bar and serving food on platters for sharing mean less things to clean up and a more connected dinner party.
4. Keep prep simple (so you can join the party).
The less time you spend in the kitchen or prep area, the better. You can involve your guests by bringing the party to the kitchen (see point above), or you can just stick to fixing up quick and easy but still delicious recipes to impress your guests with little effort.
That is always my advice. Dishes that can be prepped and made in advance, that can be grilled, stewed and baked for hours, where you don’t have to worry about them and where you can serve it whole and don’t need to meticulously cut through it for everyone.
Here is a sample menu of what I would serve 10 people for dinner at my place:
3 kg flank steak, grilled whole
4 kg bone in pork shoulder, cooked in the oven for 6 hours
Sides: Kimchi, Brown rice, Baked Sweet potato fries, Preserved Garlic, pickled onions, stewed onions, chopped cabbage salad with sesame dressing
Sauces: Romesco, Sofrito, Chimichuri
Dessert: Mousse au chocolat
Have a good bottle of gin and whisky handy. Those are usually the most asked for. Also don’t forget lots of ice, soda, and tonic water. Prepare some squeezed lemon juice and some cut lemon segments to serve.
Wine is always tough because I hate having to open bottles if someone is having just a glass. No matter how you keep it, the wine will lose its character within 2 days of being opened.
I recently tried Raffa Sparkling Wine which is a great bubbly from Spain. I love serving bubbles for dinner, but most of the time, no one wants to commit to a whole bottle.
This particular brand comes in handy 330ml bottles (like a beer). So just keep it on ice and people can either drink it straight from the bottle or serve in a glass for 2 portions.
Moreover, sparkling cocktails are all the rage nowadays. Here are some of my favorites:
Mimosa: 90ml Raffa, 15 ml Cointreau, 45 ml Fresh Orange Juice, mixed and served in a glass
Ruby Negroni: 22ml gin, 22ml Campari, 22 ml port wine, 15 ml grenadine, 60ml Raffa
Aperol Spritz : 60ml Raffa, 15 ml soda water, 45 ml aperol, served on ice
Elderflower Cocktail: 90ml Raffa, 15 ml elderflower liqueur, 15 ml soda water
Try those out!
5. Have a flow.
Layout your party to have a coherent flow. If you’re planning a buffet, don’t let your guests walk through an obstacle course just to get to it (especially if they’re wearing heels). You can merge outdoor and indoor venues if you herd your guests to either at appropriate times, for example cocktails outside in the garden and dinner in the dining room.
6. Don’t be afraid to take it outside—just be prepared.
Outdoor dinner parties could be a delight, just prepare for the warm or rainy Philippine weather. Deck your outdoor area with ventilation, pretty lights, and tell your guests to come as laid-back as possible for a night under the stars.
7. Document the party.
This doesn’t just mean the typical flat-lay for your Instagram feed. If you or your friends are into photography, bring out the film or polaroid cameras. Set out decoration that can double as props for selfies, and make sure the lighting in your home is picture perfect.
8. Break the ice.
Whether you’re having new people or childhood friends over for dinner, keep games and interesting conversation starters handy to break the ice. There are tons of new and fun card games out there, and you can even make your own.
9. Go kid-friendly.
Your dinner parties don’t have to be “No kids allowed”. If you have some guests bringing their kids over, set up a kid-friendly area in your home that isn’t out of sight of their parents, but not too near your dinner party where your other guests might be disturbed. Fill the area with toys that don’t have complicated and/or small parts, and plan a menu that the kids can enjoy or make themselves.
10. Say thank you!
The dinner party doesn’t end when your guests leave, but when you tell them thanks for coming. Sending a nice note or text the next day (especially if they’ve brought over gifts) keeps the warm feelings from the night before going, and also makes your guests excited for your next dinner party.